|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
On this 19.5-mile weekend loop, the scenery is national-park caliber (Shenandoah NP is 10 miles east) and the views are all yours (GWNF has 90% fewer visitors than SNP). The Pond Run/Tuscarora Trail near Wardensville, WV (two hours west of D.C.), climbs to the top of Big Schloss, a towering, castle-shaped outcrop of Tuscarora sandstone. Starting in a forest of old growth hemlocks, you’ll gain altitude steadily but easily, eventually wading through waist-high ferns. Past Gap Hill and Half Moon Mountain, you’ll encounter open scenes of the sloping Great North and Long Mountains, all showcasing brilliant red-orange maples, maroon tupelos, and golden oaks. After the deep, unvaried greens of summer, it’s almost sensory overload. At mile 6.7, take the Mill Mountain Trail up to the hike’s namesake rock formation; you’ll enjoy vistas of the Great Appalachian Valley to the east and West Virginia’s rugged topography to the west. Make camp 3.5 miles from Schloss in a well-sheltered site along Stony Creek. On day two, take Little Stony Creek Trail to Tuscarora/Big Blue and an end-run on Mill Mountain Trail back to Pond Run.
-Hike provided by Ivan Levin